Sunday, 17 June 2018

Alice and Chris: Work-in-Progress Playlist

There's something about the right music that puts my brain just where it needs to be for the words to flow. Every story I write comes with its own musical exploration, searching for songs that capture the mood and emotions of my characters.

Sometimes it comes with surprises! One character, an intense and angsty guy, only seemed to want to come out on the page when I played Adele non-stop. Don't ask. I haven't a clue why.

Here are some of the songs that are helping fuel my current work-in-progress. Set in one of my favorite places, eclectic east Austin, it's all about living through deep loss, found-family, second-chance love, and some symbolism around fire. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Struggles of a Non-Visual Writer

I spent most of my life collecting images. I have boxes full of faded magazine clippings and expired calendars. I'd always been fascinated by color, shape and contrast. I even spent time as a studio-dwelling art major in university.

You can imagine my shock to learn that I'm not, in fact, a 'visual person'.

We have many senses - hearing, taste, smell, touch. Apparently, you can determine a person's predominant senses simply by the language they use. Just ask someone to describe their favorite holiday, and if you listen closely you'll begin to notice if they speak about it in terms of what they saw, what they heard, what they tasted, and so on. Key words relating to each of the senses will crop up every time.

Someone tried this exercise with me, and while I described the smell, and feel and sound of a village in the south of France, I used a surprisingly few number of visual cues. I know from photographs that the sky was blue, and the tree blossoms were pale pink and there were bright yellow dandelions everywhere, and an incredible natural waterfall in the middle of the town. But that's not what I talked about. I talked about birdsong, and the taste of the fresh goat's milk and the feel of the spring sunshine on my skin.

But how can an art major 'flunk' at being a visual person?!

Thinking back, I can see now that I never was able to draw anything straight out of my head. I always needed a model. It's the internal visual sense that I lack. And my continued attraction to external visual things is likely a way of compensating for my lack of 'inner eye'.

So what does this have to do with writing?

The writer is the eyes of the reader. The writer looks around that internal landscape and paints the reader a picture. That descriptive function is vital for building a sense of place, mood and context. So what happens if you're not all that hot on the visual stuff? How is your reader going to 'see' if you can't? Is all lost? Do I just quit now and go back to my scrapbooks?

Not necessarily.

Just because you're a non-visual writer, doesn't mean you'll be bad at description. Quite possibly the opposite, in fact.

Think of all the other senses you can activate in your writing! Instead of just relying on visual cues, you're giving your reader the tastes, smells, and sounds. When you do focus on what things look like, you will likely need to take your time and really force yourself to look around internally. All this makes the work richer and builds a deeper sense of setting and place

Like anything else, you can work on strengthening your visual sense. Visit locations and take photos and notes. What do you actually see if you look closely? Not what you think you see, but what is truly there.


Guess what? Not all readers are visual readers. Maybe they like to smell, taste, and touch their stories too! And if you're non-visual as a writer, your tendency to overcompensate and try harder to fill your descriptions with visual cues will thrill those less-visual readers too.

I should know. I'm one of them.

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Sunday, 28 June 2015

Getting Serious.

Writing is a little like falling in love.

You meet writing for the first time. 

You dive in recklessly and with abandon, without any real aspiration other than just seeing if you CAN. Seeing if what's in your head looks good on paper in the first place. It's a heady feeling. You are the consummate artist, tapping frantically into your laptop in the back of a coffee shop, fueled by an irrepressible idea and too much caffeine.

But as with any love story, things don't go smoothly...

Conversation is always a little awkward on the first date. 

Where do those pesky quotation marks go anyway? Do you start a new line? Hit the tab key for dialogue? What do you say after or before or in the middle of the conversation other than...'he/she said'?! Why is this so complicated?

On the second date, you start getting a few niggling doubts. 

Do you really have a plot? How long is it going to take to get to THE SCENE that's been burning a hole in your mental pocket since you typed the first word? Can you even make it that far? And is it lying or laying? Really. That just doesn't look right.


A friend reveals your writing's true feelings for you. 

You finally pull together enough courage to actually SHOW your writing to someone, and they come back to you raving and saying that they LOVE IT and please WRITE MORE and I HAD NO IDEA YOU WERE SO TALENTED. It is a revelation. The relationship takes a whole new serious tone. This isn't just playing around with a few ideas and paddling in the shallow end of the writing pool. Now you're considering getting serious with writing.

So, you take a bit leap and...

You bring your writing home to meet the parents (a.k.a. real reviewers). 

Oh. Not good. They really REALLY disapprove. A debrief reveals that out of an entire chapter, one partial sentence might truly show promise. Your writing has been tried and found wanting.

You consider breaking up with writing. It was obviously not meant to be. You turn to your good friends quilting and Facebook as a focus to get your mind off of the train wreck that is your relationship with writing. Quilting lets you tell sad stories over a glass of wine and doesn't judge you. You decide it's all over with writing.


Writing just won't leave you alone. 

It keeps bugging you with new story ideas. New characters wandering around your head wanting to be let out. What has writing done to you? What horrific brainwashing has taken place?


You confront writing, and agree that you want to go steady. 

You write not one story, but two. You're hitting 2000 words a day, despite your full time day-job. You buy Scrivener so you and writing can spend more quality time together. You start a blog to tell the world about the journey you and writing are on in your relationship. You start to tweet with other people who are also in love with writing, and laugh together about the foibles and struggles of being in love with writing.


Writing gets down on one knee and asks if you want to make this relationship...permanent.

And you panic.

You run away. Far away.

You are too busy. You have no time. Your laptop has a virus. Writing has so many other lovers, why would it need you? And how would you make a living, married to writing? Everyone knows there is no money in it.

You and writing 'take a break'. 

So, now what? The fence is a painful place, especially when you find yourself perched on it for nearly a year. You halfheartedly check twitter every few weeks. You occasionally pick up one of the twelve stories you started and never finished. You change a few words here or there. Change them back again. Watch 'Breaking Bad' from end-to-end. Eat a lot of ice cream.


You decide to go see writing. Just to say 'Hi.'

You look deep into writing's eyes (stay with me, no matter how thin the metaphor is stretching here). You take a deep breath.

Okay, It's time. No more denying how you feel. Let's do this thing.

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Balloon image Copyright: federicofoto / 123RF Stock Photo